I call shotgun! The shotgun has been in use for well over 150 years, that shows the versatility of the design. Of course the shotguns of today don’t share too many common elements with their 1850’s contemporaries, the coach guns of the Old West. Much like the Glock of today has a little, but not much in common with the Colt 1851 Navy. Shotguns are still are still smooth bore and measured in gauges. That’s about where the similarity ends. There are so many shotgun designs available today; side by side and over under break actions, pump action, lever action, bolt action, semi-auto. What I want to examine is building a “good enough” tactical shotgun for 3 Gun and IPSC shotgun matches. It could probably be used to hunt with, or shot clays, but this shotgun will excel at a tactical roll. This would also make a stellar home defense gun, but of course the legal issues of using a firearm for self defense in Canada make it a complex legal issue if you ever brought it to bear.
The combat shotgun of today grew from the Winchester 1897 or Trench Gun that saw use by American Forces during the First World War. I’ll be building my tactical shotgun from a Remington 870 Express Tactical. Remington has been producing the 870 since 1951 with over 10 million of the gun in various configurations being manufactured.
What makes a Tactical Shotgun
In my opinion there are a few features that are essential to a good tactical shotgun.
- Extreme reliability
- High capacity magazine
- Easy to see, easy to aim sights
- Compact design
Why the 870?
I’ve chosen the 870 as my platform for a couple of reasons. The first few reasons are the design. Pump action shotguns have very few parts that can fail, the require simple maintenance, and Remington and aftermarket parts are easy to get. The fourth reason is legal. In Canada a center fire long gun, like a shotgun or most rifles, may have unlimited capacity magazines if the action is manually operated, like a pump action in this case. Semi-Automatic designs on the other hand are limited to 5 rounds in the magazine at most. The 870 Express Tactical comes with a 7 round magazine. Semi-Auto also have more parts that need to be replaced and can require more maintenance. The fifth reason is that the 870 Express Tactical has a factory XS Ghost Ring Sight and a picatinny rail if I decide to mount an optic in the future. The sixth reason the the 870 Express Tactical has a factory 18.5 inch barrel with screw in RemChokes.
I could have also chosen the Mossberg 500 and gotten many of the same advantages as the 870. The other reason I chose the 870 is that I found this particular Express Tactical for a very fair below market price and I have a history of buying and liking Remington products; like the 870 I use for trap and the 700 I use for precision rifle matches. For me its also a bonus that the muscle memory is transferable between the trap shotgun and my tactical shotgun.
The factory choke looks bad ass, but that’s about it. I don’t need a tactical, door breaching, zombie face smashing, choke, but it does look bad ass. The factory choke is a cylinder bore and shooting steel plates with #7 bird shot I want a tighter pattern then cylinder will offer. I still need to be able to shoot slugs, buck shot, and bird shot effectively at relatively shot ranges. Most of the time I expect to be between 5 and 25 yards when I’ll be using a shotgun, with the odd long shot with a slug. So out with the bad ass cylinder choke and in with the Remington Modified Choke.
The stock and fore end were the second items on my replacement list. Especially the fore end. I had a lot of issues with short stroking using the factory fore end. I think this is do to the hard plastic being very slippery. I opted to order a fore end and stock set from Hogue in Olive Drab. The Hogue fore end is over molded and is very grippy while having a soft almost squishy feel. The grip on the stock features the same soft, pebbly textured surface as the fore end and I like the ergonomics of the Houge stock better then the factory stock, it fits my hand better.
Installing the fore end requires the shotgun to be field stripped and the fore end assembly removed. The Fore End Assembly Tube Nut can be removed with a special tool, or at my Wile E Coyote gun bench I found needle nose pliers fit just about perfectly. With the nut removed swapping the fore end is simple; slide the old one of the Fore End Tube and slide the new fore end on, then re-install the Fore End Assembly Nut.
I’d ordered some parts from S & J Hardware for this build. S&J Hardware is an Ontario based company that manufacturer and sells several firearms parts and accessories.
Pictured right I ordered
- No Jam 12ga 870 Mag Follower Type 2
- Detachable Shotshell Carrier – 7 Rounds Black
- Remington 870 Jumbo Safety
I have not had any issues with any of the several hundred rounds of assorted bird shot, buck shot, or slugs I’ve fired through my 870 Tactical, but I do question the reliability of the factory Remington follower. I’ve seen several people have feeding issues at the range. The new follower is made of Delrin and the spring fits over a central column then into the face of the follower. Swapping the follower is dead easy, during field stripping remove the old follower from the magazine and during reassembly replace the new follower.
The picture above shows the factory safety (lower left) next to the extended safety. Removing the factory safety was the must difficult part of the upgrade process.
- Remove the trigger group after field stripping the shotgun
- Put your finger over the safety detent spring hole on the top rear of the trigger group
- use a small punch to push the safety retaining pin out
- remove the retaining pin and spring, pictured on the right above, the detent ball may also come free, mine did not
- remove the factory safety, it will just slide out to the right with the detnet removed
- from the right insert the over sized safety, re-install the safety detent ball and spring
- depress the safety detent spring and insert the retaining pin pointed end first, right to left
The new safety is huge by comparison to the factory safety. I can barely get my finger onto the trigger with out tripping the safety to the off position. This is perfect for a tactical application since my finger will be outside of the trigger guard until I have my sights on a target I can use the second join of my finger to depress the safety while I move the tip of my finger to the trigger.
The Detachable Shell Holders each came with industrial strength adhesive backed loop panels. I first degreased the left side of the receiver to ensure I would get good adhesion. Using scissors I removed some of the panel at the top rear to better fit the contour of the receiver. I also cut out a portion of the panel where the Trigger Plate Pins and serial number are located. Neither of these steps were required but it makes the installation look better and makes future disassembly and identification easier.
Pictured left is the shot carrier attached with 7 rounds of 00 Buck. Removing and replacing the second carrier is very easy; pull the tab rearward to strip the old carrier and slap the new one in place. The 7 Round Carrier is about the same size as a 30 round AR15 magazine and fits, but not too snugly, in an Ar15 mag pouch.
This is probably not the best solution for everyone and will not work for every situation. For my purposes a few simple low cost upgrades have given me a considerable advantage over the stock 870 Express Tactical. Based on using it at some of the 3 gun practices we have at my home club I don’t think there is anything else worth changing or adding, this shotgun in this configuration is good enough to be very competitive and fills a role as a tactical shotgun very well.